A Policy Helps Employees Use Social Media Wisely

January 7, 2015

Social media has had a tremendous impact on how we interact and engage with others. With more than 1 billion people active on Facebook, 300 million LinkedIn members, and 500 million Tweets sent each day, there’s no denying the fact that, thanks to social media, everyone now has a platform from which they can share their ideas and opinions.

From a business perspective, social media can of course be both a positive and a negative. When your employees and customers rave about your company online, it’s a powerful testimonial and great marketing! However, when the opposite occurs, the consequences can be very damaging and challenging to manage.

To protect your company and your employees, it’s critical that you educate your employees about social media, put a formal social media policy in place, and familiarize them with the policy.

While not all-inclusive, here are a few items you’ll want to consider when crafting your policy:

  • Protect privacy. Let employees know what is and is not OK to share, such as the names of or information about clients and vendors, trade secrets, and certain other confidential information. Once posted on social media, it is impossible to restrict how information can be shared. One recent trend is for excited employees to post photos of their first paychecks or bonus checks. However, these photos contain confidential bank routing numbers and checking account numbers, which increases the risk of bank fraud and identity theft. Recently, a check fraud scheme occurred in Minnesota as a result of this type of activity.
  • Keep the National Labor Relations Act in mind. Certain organizing activities are protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Your policy should be carefully crafted to protect your company while not imposing discipline for these types of protected activities.
  • Remind employees that other policies extend online. You may have policies in place surrounding discrimination, harassment, or personal conduct, for example. Remind employees that negative behavior that violates company policy (or any federal or state law) is as unacceptable online as it is offline.
  • Remind employees to disclose their relationship with your company. Transparency is important on social media, so employees who communicate about matters relating to or impacting your business should indicate that they are employed by your organization. Some employers ask employees to add disclaimers to their posts indicating that their posts do not represent their company’s opinion.
  • Keep a positive tone. Instruct employees on how they should use social media, rather than providing a list of “don’ts.” The goal isn’t to “scare people away” from using social media: it can be a positive tool for new business development and for maintaining relationships with business contacts if used properly.
  • Let employees know how your company uses social media. Does your company maintain a Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn company page, or blog? If you’re using these or other tools at a corporate level, let employees know so they can follow and share posts with their network if they wish.

Educate your employees on smart use of social media

Make sure employees have read and understand your policy. Hold “lunch and learn” sessions to inform employees, and to answer questions they may have. Share best practices and successes among your team. Social media changes frequently; be sure to review your policy on a regular basis so it stays current.

Many templates for social media policies are available online to help you get started. Your attorney and/or human resources professional can advise you on how to protect your company while not infringing on the rights of employees.

Contact a member of Schenck’s Human Resources Consulting team for more information.